Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Becky's Favorite Sweet Potato and Pinto Bean "Pizza"

These pictures don't do this "pizza" justice.  This tortilla pizza is one of the best things I've eaten all year.  It was so good that I made it three nights in a row for dinner.  I wanted to blog about it so I'd remember how I made it and would be able to make it again and again. The sweet potatoes are so sweet which is great with the slightly salty refried beans. The tomatoes have a great tang and the avocado is so creamy.... all of that on top of a crunchy tortilla crust.  Heaven.

One of the new things we love to eat lately are pizzas made using tortillas (homemade whole wheat made with lard) and cooking them in a skillet until the bottom gets nice and crunchy.  Slice it like a pizza and you have a quick, delicious dinner. 
So, one night when Jon and the kids were topping their pizza with pizza sauce and lots of cheese, I looked in the fridge to see what I had to use on my "pizza".  Here's what I found:

Whole wheat tortilla
Homemade Refried pinto beans
Half of an avocado
A few thawed, oven roasted tomatoes from last year garden (sundried tomatoes would work great!)

I turn the burner on low, spread out the refried beans like sauce and top with pieces of roasted sweet potato.  Then I evenly place the tomatoes around the potato. 
I let this cook gently until the toppings were nice and hot.  Then I turned the burner to medium and cooked it for a few more minutes until the bottom of the tortilla was nice and crunchy. 
Then I carefully slid it out of the pan, topped it with avocado and a sprinkle of salt, and sliced it into 6 triangles.... and cried when I'd eaten it all. 

I might have to get out the rolling pin and make more tortillas.....

Weekly Chronicle - It's All About The Food Apparently

I always love cooking/baking but lately I can't seem to get enough of it. I look forward to my time in the kitchen each day and have even given up knitting time in favor of a cutting board and a pile of soup ingredients.  So, most of my pictures from this week have to do with food.

Jon got home from his band trip to Orlando and I made him a feast.  The cruel twist of fate was that I had to miss this breakfast because I was fasting for routine blood work later that morning. 

The kids took great advantage of a warm afternoon and made a tent with sheets and the clothesline. They laid out there for quite a while reading books and playing.

Jon loves applesauce... really loves applesauce.  The problem is that he eats it so fast that I'm always reluctant to make it from scratch for him because all of that hard work gets eaten up too quickly.  This time I made him a deal.... he had to help.  I peeled and he chopped.  We made this huge pot of chunky applesauce and happily we still have some in the fridge after a week!   Jon said it was delicious but I wasn't a big fan of the red delicious applesauce. I prefer McIntosh apples for applesauce since they have more of a tart/sweet flavor.

We were so excited to try out our purple potatoes from the garden.  I cut them into "fries" and roasted them with a little lard and olive oil.  They are VERY moist and creamy in the middle so they didn't really get crispy but boy were they delicious!  Even Evan who doesn't really like potatoes said they were really good.

The outsides turned brown when they cooked but the inside stayed purple.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins.  I have no idea where I got the recipe but if I find it, I'll let you know.

Pizza and Movie night. Our new Friday family tradition.  This week we used thicker crusts. It didn't get as crunchy as I like but my veggie pizza was really good and judging by the empty plates, Jon and the kids loved theirs too.

Our fridge after about 3 hours of cooking/prep time on Saturday.  I chopped lots of vegetables for salads, cooked chicken for future dinners, roasted garlic for another big batch of hummus, and roasted carrots. I loved every minute of it and getting meals pulled together has never been easier.

Big batch of my roasted garlic hummus.  Two pounds of dried chick peas yields 12 cups of hummus, fyi.  Luckily it freezes beautifully. ("It's in the freezes beautifully section of my cookbook".... name that movie)

The kids have cheese in their lunch every day. Yesterday when I was slicing cheese, I asked Jon if he would mind using small cookie cutters to cut the cheese into shapes. What a sweet dad.  The kids acted like we'd put gold in their lunch boxes. They were so excited about their Christmas tree and heart shaped cheese.

What do you do when you accidentally quadruple the amount of melted butter in a granola bar recipe when you only meant to double it?  Quadruple everything else and make a huge batch of granola bars... and have to use baking sheets to bake them.  I cut them all up and now we have a good stash of granola bars in the freezer. 

I bought a 3 lb. tub of sour cream at Costco because it was a good deal.  Well, that's a lot of sour cream.  I had to find a way to use it up before it went bad.  Sour Cream Biscuits were the answer. I used all whole wheat pastry flour and used the food processor to make the dough.  They turned out a little denser then our regular Butter Biscuits but Jon and the kids still really liked them.  They smelled amazing.  Darn this dairy allergy!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Crunchy Baked Salmon Cakes

We're not big fish eaters in this house and it's mostly because Jon and the kids don't really like it... and it's expensive.  When I make tuna cakes, I'm the one who eats them... and freezes the leftovers for my lunches another day.  I don't love Salmon but set out to create a Salmon Cake recipe that would make me love it. Wild-caught salmon is important since farmed salmon lacks the same nutrients as wild fish.  Have you priced fresh, wild-caught salmon? Yikes!  So, canned Salmon is the only Salmon that we'll have around here. 

These Salmon cakes are full of crunchy celery and panko bread crumbs but still have a nice Salmon flavor.  They get nice and crunchy if you cook them long enough and hold together nicely.  The Old Bay gives the perfect flavor and it's all the seasoning you need.  
Best of all, these Salmon Cakes made a salmon lover out of me.  Time to buy a few more cans! 

Crunchy Baked Salmon Cakes
Yield: 10 patties

1 can of wild caught Salmon (cleaned of big bones and skin)
1 onion, diced
5 stalks of celery (diced)
2 Tbsp. oil
1 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
3 Tbsp. Mayonaise
2 tsp. dijon mustard
4 eggs (beaten)
2 cups panko style bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400*.
Sautee onions and celery in olive oil until onions are translucent and celery is tender. Set aside to cool slightly while you clean the salmon.
Mix together all of the ingredients and shape into patties.
Bake on parchment paper lined baking tray (or greased pan)  for 20 minutes. Flip over the patties and cook for an additional 10-20 minutes or until both sides are medium brown.
**To be honest, I have no idea how long I cooked these... I just kept an eye on them and flipped them when they needed to be flipped so your cooking time may vary. Just keep a close eye on them**

To reheat leftovers, heat in the oven/toaster oven so they get nice and crunchy.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Weekly Chronicle

 The Halloween Haul.... sorted, traded, counted....

 Whole Wheat Oat Flax Buns... much better then their name sounds.  They are soft, moist rolls that the kids and Jon LOVED!  I used all whole wheat flour. The ground flax seed is a must because they keep the rolls soft and moist.

 The rolls were part of a Chicken Noodle Soup dinner.  This is the kids favorite soup. I keep it very simple with chicken broth, chicken, corn, peas, and carrots. This time I added some homemade egg pasta that I still had in the cabinet.  We ate it for 3 dinners in a row and there were no complaints.

 Lesson to be learned.... don't put the milk next to the eggs in the car.

 Jon went to Orlando this past weekend with the band and I wanted to send him with some snacks to keep from spending a fortune at the park on food.  I tried my hand at making some homemade "Lara" bars and then a new granola bar recipe. I made up a taste testing plate for the kids.  Evan's favorite were the Key Lime bars and Charlotte's favorite were the Crunchy Granola bars (made with almonds and peanuts and I finely chopped all ingredients to make the "chunks" less noticeable) .  My favorite... the Chewy Oatmeal Cookie (I used almonds instead of walnuts).
 I love our tree when it's "on fire".

 I harvested some rutabaga, parsnips, and potatoes from the garden this weekend to roast.
 After all this chopping... and roasting... the rutabaga and parsnips were too bitter and starchy to enjoy. I'm going to try leaving the rest in the ground for a while longer to see if a heavy freeze will sweeten them.
 The kids helped me dig the rest of the potatoes. Since I plant my potatoes so deeply, storing them in the ground has worked out really well.  We had 1/3 of the total potatoes that I planted left to dig up.

 Evan has eagle eyes when it comes to potatoes.  I dig and he and Charlotte watch for potatoes and jump in to grab them and brush off the dirt.  They've decided that a "Jackpot" is when I uncover 5 potatoes in one scoop. It doesn't happen often but there's big excitement when I do.
Here is the last 1/3 of our potato harvest for the year.  They did really well and I can't wait to plant 2 full rows next year!  The potatoes in the back are all Russets. The ones on the front left are Kennebec and the front right are the few Adirondack Blue that we were lucky enough to harvest. Most of my blue seed potatoes rotted before I got them in the ground so I wasn't sure what our harvest would look like. We're really excited to make "blue" oven fries.

Have a great week!

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Last week was my 36th birthday.  After being without a food processor for over a year, I decided to start saving up for the biggest, best one I could afford.  I found a 14 cup Cuisinart on Amazon and started saving.  Then my brother, sister, and Mom all chipped in with Amazon gift cards for my birthday and I was able to buy it! Thanks, Katie, Chris, and Mom and Mark!! It came 2 days after my birthday in a huge, heavy box.

It's a thing of beauty.

I got right to work on a batch of homemade almond butter (in yesterday's post) and a batch of homemade Lara Bars (in next week's post).  It made quick work of both recipes.  It's very quiet and powerful. I can't wait to use it again. Maybe I'll make biscuits tomorrow. Cutting in butter will be a breeze now!

Jon brought me the most colorful, cheerful flowers ever and a very sweet card.

Then for my birthday dinner, instead of going to a restaurant and spending a ton of money on food that I'd eat thinking "I could cook this better at home", I decided to use the money that we'd spend eating out on some really great ingredients and make dinner at home.  I thought long and hard about my dream meal menu and decided on steak, roasted fingerling potatoes, and steamed broccoli with carrot cake for dessert.

These boneless ribeyes weren't on sale but the sign above said they were so Harris Teeter honored the price since they were mis-marked. They ended up being $6.99/lb. instead of $11.99/lb. What a deal!  I salt and peppered each side and cooked them in a very hot cast iron skillet. Each side got nice and crusty but the inside was buttery tender.

I had such a great time cooking the meal. I roasted the potatoes with lard and olive oil and a little bit of rosemary.  The broccoli was lightly steamed.  Everything turned out just as I'd pictured it in my head.

My mom had the kids at her house so Jon and I got to eat our special meal all by ourselves.  We tried to eat slowly to savor every bite. It was a seemingly simple meal but each thing was cooked just like we liked it.  It beat any restaurant meal I've ever had and at a total of $20 spent on the dinner AND the dessert, it was much less then we would have spent if we'd gone out for dinner. I think I'll make this a yearly birthday tradition.  I wonder what I'll cook for my 37th.....

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Homemade Almond Butter

While waiting for my new Cuisinart to arrive in the mail, I had to think of what I'd make first. I've waited a year and a half to get a new food processor because I wanted it to be a great one so I've had plenty of time to dream up things I could make with a powerful machine.  I decided almond butter would be my first thing to make since my last food processor wasn't nearly powerful enough to make it. 

It turns out that all you need are the right tools to get any job done.  With this machine, making almond butter was one of the easiest things I've ever done in the kitchen.  I roasted the almonds, let them cool, added them to the food processor and turned it on.  It took about 4 minutes to go from whole nuts to smooth, shiny almond butter.  I added some salt and then called it done. 

It's roasted flavor is delicious and makes it more special then the stuff from the store.  If you have a strong food processor, I'd highly recommend you try to make your own almond butter... or even peanut butter.  We're going to try that next.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Weekly Chronicle - Happy Halloween

I love cabbage.  It's a relatively new love though.  I only learned to appreciate it as something other then an ingredient in cole slaw in the past few years.  Last week I roasted some cabbage "steaks".  I basted them with oil (coconut oil is my favorite for vegetables), sprinkled them liberally with salt and a little pepper, and then roasted them at 400* for about 40 minutes, carefully flipping them half way through. 

Only one of our Crepe Myrtles gets this vivid fall color. I think it's the one that blooms white.

Polly is practicing her "wait" at an open door.

We've been turning our burritos into "Taco Pizza" lately. We put a homemade tortilla in a large skillet, put our topping on and let it cook in the skillet. The bottom gets nice and crunchy and then we slice it with a pizza cutter.  The "Taco Pizza" above is mine. It has refried beans, shredded taco meat, salsa, and avocado. It was very good. Jon and the kids usually have taco meat, cheese, salsa (for Jon), and lots of sour cream.

Wacky hair day at school.

I've been making "Smoothie Kits" about once a week so all I have to do in the morning it empty a bag into the blender straight from the freezer instead of getting out all of the ingredients each morning. Big time saver.

Finally cold enough to fire up the woodstove.  I love this time of year.

Happy Halloween!  Charlotte wanted to be a scary vampire this year and Evan invented his own superhero. He went as "Super Kid". 

Watch out, Evan!

The little church on our street had a "Trunk or Treat".

Pretty tree on our street. I wish it was ours.

Then we drove to Jon's school and enjoyed their Halloween carnival.

The band kids dressed up in costume and played music while the kids scored a ton of candy and got balloon animals made for them.  It was a fun night that ended with them getting to spend the weekend with Nana and Grandpa.  They were so excited.

I guess cabbage will bookend this post.  Here's another cabbage recipe I tried this week. Bacon wrapped cabbage wedges. Everything's better with bacon, right?  I drained the wedges on paper towels after it came out of the oven because the bacon gave off too much grease. The wedges were also really hard to cut up when it was time to eat... too slippery.  I think next time I cut them in "steaks" and then wrap them with the bacon. 

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